Blog, New Year's Resolutions

My New Year’s Resolution…

…is to get down to 9 stone 7lb by my next birthday, which is in May.

Sad to say, those fine words were 2018’s New Year Resolution, too. And 2017, and….well, you can guess the rest. 

Each year I make the same vow. I always fall off the wagon, on or around January 12th. But in 2019 things are going to be different.

All that’s missing is the cake…

It’s easy to be optimistic when the New Year is still a few days away, but I have an extra weapon in my armoury for my next attempt. I’ll be playing mind games.

Back in February, I reviewed Paul McKenna’s Instant Confidence system (you can read more about that here).

I was very sceptical, but McKenna’s method worked so well for me that within a few months I’d stopped wishing and wondering, and signed up for a university course. As you’ll know if you’ve been following my blog, I’m now having a great time as a student at the University of Gloucestershire.

After that big success, I decided to try another of Paul McKenna’s systems. I’ve been trying (and failing) to lose baby weight since the beginning of this century. As Son Number One is now at university too, you’ll realise I haven’t had much success. If anything, I’ve been gradually putting on weight.

In hope rather than expectation, yesterday I bought McKenna’s I Can Make You Thin. I wondered about waiting until January 1st to try it out, because all the party food would have been eaten by then. There wouldn’t be so much temptation lying around. Then I thought about all the weight I’d put on in the rush to finish the post-Christmas leftovers by midnight on 31st December.

It would be a miracle if this book could stop me hoovering up food at this time of year. I decided to give it a try.

That was 24 hours ago. Since opening I Can Make You Thin, I’ve spring-cleaned the kitchen without stopping for a snack (or two, or three…). Last night, I ate only two-thirds of my home-made pizza. The weirdest thing of all is that I binned some of my porridge and fresh-fruit at breakfast this morning.

The ultimate temptation…

Me? Leaving some breakfast? That has never been known in my lifetime.

There are only two possible reasons for this. I’m either coming down with the bug that’s going round the village…or Paul McKenna is heading for another success.

It’s too early to say which it is, but there’s plenty of time for the novelty of McKenna’s system to wear off before New Year has even begun. Whatever happens I’ll keep you updated, so come back soon to see how I’m getting on!

Blog, Christmas

Six Ways To Beat Loneliness This Christmas…

1. Donate your time

Take a bag of non-perishable items to your local homeless shelter or food bank. Scented soap and other simple toiletries are a luxury when you’re in need.

2. Visit a neighbour

Invite them into your home if they would otherwise be alone. The worst that can happen is that they say ‘no’—and they may have been waiting for someone like you to make the first move.

3. Go for a walk 

Fresh air and exercise makes everyone feel better. And you never know who you might meet when you’re out and about. This is Alex!

4. Take up a craft 

Keeping your hands and mind busy with baking or other crafts produces useful results. One of the trees in our Christmas tree festival was decorated from top to bottom with delicate snowflakes crocheted in fine thread. It looked stunning.

5. Gardening

Even in mid-winter you can grow micro greens, cress and sprouting seeds on your windowsill. Within a week or two you’ll be harvesting your own salads and sandwich fillings

6. Feed the Birds

A windowsill feeder will bring life and movement close. Commercial feed mixes, fat balls, small amounts of finely grated cheese and well soaked, chopped raisins are all good.

Whether you are spending Christmas alone or with family and friends, I hope you have a lovely time. What will you be doing this year? Let me know by leaving a comment below!


Blog, non-fiction

Finding A Publisher For Your Non-Fiction Project

In a perfect world you’d have a signed contract for your work before you started writing. The life of a writer isn’t usually that simple. Novels need to be finished before you approach a publisher. I didn’t know this when I wrote my first published contemporary romance, The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin. I sent the publisher my first three chapters and a synopsis as soon as I’d finished writing them. When they replied asking to see the complete manuscript, I still had half a dozen chapters to write! 

It’s a bit different if you want to write non-fiction. You can pitch your idea before you’ve finished the book—you can find out more about the process here. It means planning down to the last detail to produce what is in effect a business plan, but there’s nothing like a publisher showing some interest to give a project wings. 

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Start by studying the type of book you want to write. Read as many as you can to get a feel for the style and content. Make a note of how many words are in each book, and how many chapters. Publishers like submissions that are close in size and style to the work they already publish. They want more of the same…but different. If you ask them what this means, they’ll say, “We know what we want when we see it.” That great catch-all statement allows them to snap up both the obscure and lengthy and the short and snappy, but for a first attempt play it safe. Make sure your manuscript conforms.

For further clues, get hold of a current copy of The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook. It’s the writer’s bible, listing the details of literary agents and publishers throughout the UK.

It has helpful articles about the writing business, too. There are pieces in the 2019 edition about crowdfunding your novel, how to become a poet and writing a cook book, so there’s something for everyone.

If you don’t have an agent, make a list of publishers who will accept submissions from unagented authors. Visit their websites, and narrow down your list to include only those who publish books like your prospective project. There’s no point sending your self-help manual to a company that only deals with botanical text books.

Once you’ve produced a shortlist, study their requirements for submission. You can get a good idea of what the individual editors like to see by following their posts on Facebook and Twitter. Give them exactly what they want, and if your idea hits the spot, you’ll be a winner!

Publishers are deluged with manuscripts. After the holiday break I’ll be showing you how to make your manuscript stand out from the crowd. To find out how to automatically give your submission the edge over 90% of other writers, follow this blog!

Blog, Writing

How To Write A Proposal For A Non-Fiction Book

Small Beginnings Grow Into Big Ideas…

I’ve put my romance writing on hold while I’m at university (you can find out more about that here). Instead, I’m spending all my writing time on two separate projects which form part of my MA course.  One is a full-length piece of women’s commercial fiction. The other is a non-fiction book about the Gloucestershire countryside. 

Writing Struggle and Suffrage reignited my interest in writing non-fiction. There’s one big difference between writing novels and factual books. You can approaching agents and publishers before you’ve finished writing the book. 

Fiction editors like  you to finish your novel before you contact them. When you write non-fiction, a book can be sold as not much more than an idea—as long as an agent or editor finds it irresistible.  To tempt them, you’ll need to put forward a detailed proposal.  Here’s how to do it…

A successful book proposal has 8 elements: A cover page,  a synopsis, a full set of chapter outlines, details of your target market,  format of your book,  a list of chapter headings, your credentials for writing this book, and a sample of your work.        

Cover Page

This should be laid out with the working title of your book, your name (and pen-name, if you’re using one), the book’s estimated word count, and all your contact details  including address and phone numbers.

Synopsis

This should be a single page laying out the six main pillars of your book: what it’s about, where it’s set, why it needs to be written, your qualifications for the job, the stage you’ve reached in writing it, and how long it will take you to finish the whole book. 

Chapter Outlines

You only need one or two sentences for each chapter. As with fiction, make every word count. Every line must either advance the story you’re telling, or deepen the reader’s understanding of one or more of its characters. You’re fishing for professionals— offer them juicy bait then make sure there’s a good hook at the end of each chapter outline to reel them on to the next one.

Target Market

Publishing a book calls for a major investment in time and money. The more accurately you can identify who will buy your book, the better it will sell. What age group are you looking at? Is your material gender-specific? Are you aiming for a small local market, or universal appeal? Specialist readers, or impulse buyers? 

Your first buyer is your prospective agent or publisher. Make that sale, and more will follow. Study their websites and social media activity to discover their likes and dislikes. Find out what your target market (and therefore your professional contact) needs, and wants to read. Can you catch the wave of a trend? Give them what they want, and it will make selling your finished book a lot easier.  

Assume you won’t be the only person who identifies a popular trend. Include a line or two about what your book does better, or differently from other books on sale. Show you’ve done your research by including titles of your potential  rivals’ books.  

Format

What will the final word count of your book be? How many chapters will it have, and how long will each one be? Will your book incorporate any unusual design features? Will it be illustrated? If so, will the illustrations be in colour or black and white? 

Chapter Headings

Give a Table of Contents by listing your chapters and giving each one a concise, appealing title.

Your Credentials

Put forward the case for you being the perfect person to write this book. Give an account of all your experience in the field, whether technical, academic or both. Inspire your reader with your enthusiasm for your subject as well as your expertise. Give details of your online presence, and list any  experts you know off-line, too.  The writing business relies on networking. The more impressive connections you have outside the business, the keener people will be to draw you into their own particular fold.

Sample

Send the first two or three chapters of your book to give a taste of your writing style, pace and content. 

 As with all submissions, make sure you use a legible,  industry-standard font such as  Time New Roman 12-point throughout your proposal, and number every page. Although most submissions are made by email, a lot of editors like to print out proposals for reading.  If the manuscript gets dropped, numbering pages makes it easy to get them back in the right order. 

When you’ve got your material organised, edited and proof-read, read it aloud to yourself from beginning to end. It’s amazing what you’ll catch!

Next time, I’ll be exploring ways of finding the perfect destination for your proposal.

Have you tried contacting publishers direct with your work? Have you had any luck?

Blog, Creative Writing

Happy Christmas Holidays!

From the moment I started school, Friday became my favourite day of the week. It was the same for twenty years, until I gave up  office life.  I’m now self-employed and working from home at something I love, so pretty much every day is a holiday.

I never set an alarm. That doesn’t matter as I wake at around 5am anyway (it’s all those years of keeping poultry and pigs). As long as Alex gets his regular walks, the day is my own—although 9,999 times out of a thousand I choose to work. That’s because I enjoy writing so much I can’t stop, although I’ll let you into a secret. Sometimes it’s really hard to get down to work! 

For a while I’ll be writing something other than assignments.

This year, I’ve put my publishing career on hold. New projects are keeping me so busy, I’ve rediscovered the joy of looking forward to Friday! My next book, a non-fiction title called Struggle and Suffrage—Women’s Lives in Bristol is going to be released by Pen and Sword Books on 28th February 2019 (you can either order your copy in advance with 20% off by clicking here,  or on the link above), so I’ll be busy with that, but most of my time is taken up with working for my Masters degree at the University of Gloucestershire. You can find out more about that here.

I knew going back to a life of lectures and assignments after so long away from learning would be hard. Studying part-time means I only have to attend university two or three times a week, but it’s amazing how preparation, commuting and background reading eat into my time. Goodness only knows how full-time students manage, especially as most of them do part-time paid jobs to help with their bills.

Today is not only a Friday, it’s the last day of term. One of our lecturers is treating us to mince pies, so that’s another reason to celebrate. While I’ll be very glad to get home tonight, I’m a glutton for commuting punishment. I’ll be driving back to the university tomorrow to pick up Son Number One, who’s at the University of Gloucestershire too but studying on a different campus and living in halls. He’s coming home for Christmas, so it’s a happy time all round.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, keep warm. It’s freezing here already, and there are rumours of sleet on high ground tomorrow. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! 

May your days be merry and bright…